On Wednesday of this week, I and an old compadre stopped off at an American Legion Post that offers a superb vista featuring the Mississippi River just before it melds with the St. Croix River and then drains towards the Gulf of Mexico. While at the bar, sampling a cheeseburger, I overheard two older men conversing about the economy and the latest terrorist attacks in Paris. The place had only three other people there, besides myself and pal, and these two. I struck up a conversation, introducing myself as a son of a Parisian, who had met my father in Paris during World War II. Neither had been in this war, but they were veterans, and both had served as past Commanders for the American Legion Post 47, Hastings, Minnesota. I thought, what a perfect opportunity to ask about a veteran’s position on whether the U.S. should retaliate against ISIS by “putting boots on the ground,” and stepping up bombing attacks ( in a recent article, I had advocated for the same). I barely got the words out of my mouth before one of them said, “I don’t care how many boots they send, I just don’t want any human bodies in them.” He quickly added that it made him angry because the words dehumanized our soldiers. His friend agreed and said that he thought we were proceeding the right way by bombing and offering aid through advice. Let these other countries, who are directly involved and impacted by the terrorists fight this war, he added.
I have to admit, I was more than surprised that two old veterans and Commanders took what I thought was such a passive position– especially since the events in Paris were less than a few days past (let alone, 9/11 and the World Trade Center Towers). I pressed on, what about the outcry for immediate military action “now,” currently being espoused by some politicians and others. One of the men, a retired detective of 36 years, said, those people are “chicken hawks.” He then added most of them do not have any skin in the game– they are not volunteering any of their kids to go over there and fight. The other man said the end of the draft (where men were involuntarily put into the military) had destroyed the military in some ways. Before he could explain why, the other man intervened and said, “everyone who is eligible should serve their country, it is good for the country and good for them.”
Later, I called my mother, “Paulette” up, who is healthy and articulate at 93 (so is my father), and asked her opinion. She met and married my father in Paris when he was a soldier there during World War II. I could tell she was sad. She said she had only recently determined that her many nieces and nephews living in and around Paris were okay. I asked her about what she thinks should be done about the recent attacks in Paris, She said, she thought French President Francois Hollande was choosing the right path, and that it has been a while since France has had such a brave president. As I was driving down the river further, I couldn’t help but think about how the French Navy saved us during the American Revolution, and how cool and distinct Paris is. I still believe that we should put more “soldiers” on the ground.”